All posts by reneeinnd

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today’s post is by Steve Grooms.

February 20 is my dad’s birthday. Or, I think it is. I used to have documents about such things, but I have moved too often, and I’ve lost much of the paperwork I once had. I once asked my mother if Dad had been born on the 20th.  She said, “George was born on the day George Washington wasn’t.” Mom sometimes talked like Gracie Allen.

My sister recently wrote that my dad and I were exceptionally close. We probably were, although I regret some differences that divided us. My father was socially and politically conservative. He was distinctly uneasy in the presence of assertive women. He came from a family that uncritically endorsed military service. Dad served in WW2, although his experience left him troubled about his government and the military. My hatred of the Vietnam War became a real problem for my dad. All in all, I think we were closer than almost any father and son pair I’ve seen.

We were both divided and united by a love for hunting and fishing. Dad taught me how to fish, and he introduced me to pheasant hunting. In the end, I drifted away from fishing the way he did it, and my style of hunting pheasants was totally unlike his. I tried to disguise those differences, for I didn’t want to hurt him. He chose to emphasize our common interest, although I’m sure it sometimes bothered him that I went my own way.

My dad was a storyteller. I could fill several books with stories he told me on an astonishing array of topics. I keep and treasure so many stories from him that I sometimes wonder if I have forgotten anything he told me. My memory is actually porous and fallible in many areas. My memory for stories, however, is awesome, and my dad shared an amazing treasure trove of stories with me. My love for stories is the most obvious of his legacies to me.

Several years ago I decided to write a book about my parents’ lives. I spent six years researching, writing and editing book. I began the project believing I understood my parents, especially my father. But as I retrieved more and more memories and contemplated them, I realized that my original sense of my dad was shallow and often wrong.

One odd discovery was learning that my dad was so handsome that women sometimes had trouble keeping their composure around him. This just is not a way people think about their parents. As I worked on the book I encountered stories about his impact on women. One reason I missed this so long was my dad didn’t care what women thought of him. He was a one-woman man.

Another surprise: the better I got to know my dad, the more I respected him. I have never met a man with as much integrity. I know his many flaws and shortcomings. He had a terrible childhood that left marks. I’ve witnessed his worst moments of weakness. I know what terrified him and what gave him hope. In the end, he stands as one of the finest men I’ve personally known. That, believe me, was a surprise.

Why do I write this now? When I was dating after my divorce I was surprised to learn that many children don’t know much about their mothers and even less about their fathers. All the women I got to know well had adult children. Those kids, without exception were absolutely clueless about their parents’ lives. Young people are usually too busy with their own lives to think much about their parents. That is surely the norm, and it was probably foolish of me to expect anything else.

When I understood my parents better I was moved by the drama of their story. I continue to wonder if they were exceptional that way. Perhaps most couples that seem boring actually are boring. Or perhaps many people lead fascinating lives but nobody ever notices their moments of great courage and passion.

Do you believe you know your parents well?

Smokey and the Patent

Today marks the anniversary of two important happenings in history: The patent of the phonograph by Edison in 1878, and the birthday in 1940 of Smokey Robinson.

I was a little young to really appreciate Motown  in the early to mid 1960’s, but I liked the sound once I was in high school in the mid 1970’s. We had a big stereo with a turntable in the living room. It was mostly used as a piece of furniture.  On Halloween in 1973 my dad bought my first stereo in components that I kept in my room-two big speakers, a receiver/amplifier and a turntable.  I listened to Elton John.  I thought I was in heaven.

What Motown vinyl did you like to spin?  What kind of sound equipment did you have?

Traveling with Bells

We are finalizing the details of a trip we are taking next November to play in a massed hand bell choir at Carnegie Hall. We will also play in Central Park for a short concert the day before the main concert on December 1.

We have our bell assignments, and are figuring out if we will rent bells there or travel with the bells we have here. The organizers assure us that bells do pretty well in suitcases as long as they are thickly padded, and that TSA is prepared to find bells in our luggage.  I sure hope so. I have traveled with some odd things, but I think bells will be some of the oddest.

What are some of the more unusual things you have packed in a suitcase while traveling?  What are your experiences with lost or destroyed luggage?

Silk Purses and Sows Ears

Like most of the Baboons, I am completely done with this cold weather. We haven’t had a great quantity of snow here in western ND, but the cold is really wearing on us. The only positive thing I can think about it is that prolonged cold like this kills Emerald Ash Borers.

I remember once in grad school when a friend was dismayed to find that he and his girlfriend were going to have a baby. Another friend tried to be positive and told him “Well, at least you know that the bullets aren’t blank”.  I don’t know how comforting that was, but at least the friend tried to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

Give some examples of helpful (or not so helpful) positive spin.

Code What?

Since I moved to North Dakota I have worked at two places: A hospital and a community mental health center.   Both had Code announcements over the loudspeaker system that let you know that there was trouble or alerted you to an issue. Code Blue, at the hospital, meant that someone was in cardiac arrest. Code Brown at both facilities meant that there is a tornado coming and you should take shelter. Code Black means there is a bomb threat.

My current agency is redoing its Codes to align with those of other State agencies. One of my coworkers suggested that we should have a Code S (sleep), which would mean that we should all take 20 minute naps. I suggested that we should have Code Orange, which means that 45 is coming for a photo op and that we should all hide.

Please come up with some creative Codes to alert people to things they should know about.


Turkey Trouble

I was surprised a couple of years ago when we were in Moorhead, MN for our daughter’s graduation from Concordia to see a flock of about 10 wild turkeys strutting past campus.  I, too, went to Concordia, and there was nary a wild turkey in Moorhead when I was there.

I follow the Fargo Forum newspaper online, and have read with interest the struggles that the city has with the turkeys.  There seem to be dozens of wild turkeys in town, hanging out in residential areas, terrorizing mail carriers, attacking people’s pets, pooping all over yards and sidewalks, ripping up gardens, playing chicken with cars in the middle of the street, and frightening children on the way to or from school bus stops.

People have been feeding them, which is the crux of the problem.  It keeps them nearby and increases their fecundity.  Several solutions were bandied about by the city council, including shooting them.  Thanks to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks, there is a solution that will cost the city nothing.  South Dakota will pay for the whole thing.

After all the necessary permits are gathered, corn will be scattered in a specified place on the banks of the Red River in Moorhead.  Once the turkeys start to gather there en masse, SD Game and Fish personnel will fire off a cannon that will shoot out a huge net that will ensnare the turkeys so they can be humanely gathered and caged and transported to South Dakota. There they will be released into the wild to repopulate South Dakota’s wild turkey population.

They estimate there are at least 75 turkeys that can be caught and removed this way.  Good luck to them. I can imagine great success or hilarious failure. I am just glad they aren’t going to just shoot them. Getting Moorhead residents to stop feeding the remaining turkeys will be the real challenge, I fear.

Have you ever encountered a wild turkey?  What are your favorite birds to feed and watch? How would you go about relocating a flock of turkeys?

Rhapsody in Blue

Today is the anniversary of the 1924 premiere in New York City of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra. As a clarinet player, I always loved the opening clarinet slide, and was always so frustrated when I couldn’t replicate it.  I recently learned that Gershwin initially wrote the piece for two pianos, and it was orchestrated for Whiteman by Ferde Grofe, yes, he of the Grand Canon Suite.  Grofe was considered quite a jazz composer and arranger, which I also find surprising.

I love Gershwin’s music, especially his popular songs.  I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t died so tragically young.

What is your favorite Gershwin music? What contemporaries of Gershwin do you like?